From Mohammed Kudus (West Ham) to Tijjani Reijnders (Milan), from Orkun Kökçü (Benfica) to Ibrahim Sangaré (Nottingham Forest), we saw some of the Eredivisie’s best players move to major European clubs over the past summer, and 2024 looks to be no different. Today, we’re taking a look at some under-the-radar talents who could be set for big moves next year. Rather than focusing on big-name stars like Santiago Giménez and Johan Bakayoko, we’re going to be taking a look at players outside of Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord, and AZ Alkmaar.
Million Manhoef | RW | 21 | Vitesse Arnhem
The son of mixed martial artist Melvin Manhoef, Million Manhoef came through Vitesse’s academy and enjoyed an impressive 2022/23 campaign that would see him register 9 goals and 5 assists in the Eredivisie and earn a spot on the league’s Team of the Month for May. A direct right winger, Manhoef is a high-volume shooter with top-level finishing ability and great composure in the final third, boasting a low centre of gravity that allows him to glide past opponents and utilize his body well whilst dribbling.
Elayis Tavşan | RW | 22 | NEC Nijmegen
A member of the Netherlands side that won the 2018 U-17 Euros alongside Ryan Gravenberch and Jurrien Timber, Elayis Tavşan left Sparta Rotterdam after 12 years and made the move to NEC, where he has become a regular in attack, being named the Eredivisie Talent of the Month for October 2021. A tall, pacey winger who loves to cut inside onto his left foot and create dangerous chances from central areas, he is an agile dribbler who loves taking on opponents, carving out goal-scoring opportunities, and shooting from distance.
Xavier Mbuyamba | CB | 21 | Volendam
Born in Maastricht, Xavier Mbuyamba came up the youth ranks at MVV Maastricht and became the youngest player in club history in November 2018 against Volendam in the second tier, before heading for Barcelona. After a year at the Camp Nou and two years at Chelsea, he returned to the Netherlands and made the move to Volendam, where he scored five league goals last season. At 6’4″, he is an aerially dominant, technically gifted, ball-playing center back whose stellar form would see earn a €1.5m bid from Sampdoria, but instead of heading to Serie B, he remained put in his home country for another season.
Mees Hilgers | CB | 22 | Twente
After finishing fourth and fifth in the past two seasons, Twente enter the international break in third place, and one player who has played a key role in their ascent is Mees Hilgers. Having joined the club in 2011, Hilgers has made 71 appearances since making his debut in December 2020. A mobile, technical CB who’s great at progressing the ball through his top ball-carrying or passing ability, he is capable of slotting in at right back and has the versatility, anticipation and speed of thought to excel in a bigger league.
Osame Sahraoui | LW | 22 | Heerenveen
After Martin Ødegaard and Morten Thorsby, the latest Norwegian to test his talents at Heerenveen is Osame Sahraoui, who made the move to the Netherlands in January after nearly a decade at Vålerenga. A silky, skillful winger who boasts immense agility and stellar dribbling ability, he is a technically gifted, creative winger who excels in various key metrics like key passes, passes into the penalty area, progressive carries & shot-creating actions, and he’s begun the season in impressive fashion with three goals and an assist in four matches as well as an assist in his Norway debut against Jordan.
Manfred Ugalde | ST | 21 | Twente
Manfred Ugalde was 17 when he made his debut for the Costa Rica national team; he was 18 when he left his homeland, joining the City Football Group and spending a year in Belgium’s second tier with Lommel. Ugalde spent two years on loan at Twente before making the permanent move to the Eredivisie club this summer after grabbing eight league goals in 2022/23. A quick, agile striker with instinctive attacking movement and a high shot volume, Ugalde looks set to play a key role for Los Ticos as they look to move on from the previous golden generation and remain amongst CONCACAF’s top teams.
Joshua Kitolano | CM | 21 | Sparta Rotterdam
Sparta Rotterdam went from narrowly missing out on relegation in 2021/22 to narrowly missing out on European qualification in 2022/23, and one player who proved crucial in their upward swing was Joshua Kitolano. Born in Malawi, Kitolano grew up in Norway, developing at Odd before heading to the Netherlands in 2022. An all-action midfielder, Kitolano boasts pure athleticism, agility, and an imposing physicality.
He is a defensively active, box-to-box dynamo who boasts the physical power of a winger and brutal running speed, enabling him to be a threat in transition. He has a high shot volume for a midfielder, and his box-crashing abilities saw him grab four league goals last season.
Gijs Smal | LB | 26 | Twente
After Dusan Tadic, Tecatito Corona, Hakim Ziyech, and Vaclav Cerny, the latest Twente player to secure a major transfer could be Gijs Smal. Following an eye-year spell at Volendam, Smal made the move to Enschede in 2020 where he has emerged as a complete left back and an attacking specialist. Whilst he is an impressive defender, Smal thrives in the final third, shooting more than once a game on average, boasting a lethal shot from distance as well as a stellar crossing ability that would see him rack up 10 assists last season.
Comfortable on the ball, he relishes the opportunity to overlap, link up with wingers and push down the byline, while he is also skilled at dropping into central areas. He has a strong positional awareness and an impressive stamina that enables him to get back on defense after pushing forward all game, and his versatility and stellar technical ability makes him a mouldable fullback capable of excelling in an attack-minded team.
Carel Eiting | CM | 25 | Twente
Once regarded as one of Ajax’s biggest talents and a potential successor to Frenkie de Jong, Carel Eiting departed the Amsterdam club in 2020 after 13 years, spending time at Huddersfield Town and Genk before returning to the Netherlands. He would impress for Volendam and emerge as their chief playmaker, racking up 3 goals and 10 assists in 34 league appearances to narrowly stave off the drop, before making the move to Twente this summer. A technically gifted box-to-box midfielder, Eiting boasts excellent shooting ability and intelligent movement around the box, constantly looking to play through balls to attackers and carve out goal-scoring opportunities.
Taylor Booth | CM | 22 | Utrecht
After Ricardo Pepi, Luca de la Torre and Djordje Mihailovic, yet another American youngster who is testing his skills in the Eredivisie is Taylor Booth. The Utah native joined Bayern’s academy in 2019, spending a brief loan spell at Austrian club St. Pölten before making the move to Utrecht, being named the Eredivisie Player of the Month in November 2022. A versatile technical dribbler with a good defensive work rate, Booth is an agile player who loves to carry the ball into the final third to progress play and create chances, and his versatility has seen him operate as a central midfielder, an attacking midfielder, a winger on either flank and even as a right back.
Andries Noppert | GK | 29 | Heerenveen
One of the late bloomers on this list, Andries Noppert came through Heerenveen’s academy before heading to NAC Breda in 2014, spending four years before making the move to Italian side Foggia, where he would earn the moniker Il Grattacielo (The Skyscraper) for his 6’8″ frame. A perennial backup, Noppert hade made just 37 professional appeances before returning to Heerenveen in 2022, where he would play his first-ever season as a first-choice goalkeeper.
His impressive performances in goal would see Louis van Gaal give him his Netherlands debut in September 2022, starting between the sticks as the Oranje came within inches of reaching the World Cup semifinals. With a commanding physical presence, stellar reflexes, and the ability to shift across goal quickly, punch away corner kicks and crosses, and keep out powerful shots, Noppert will be looking to continue his positive form as he seeks to challenge Bart Verbruggen, Justin Bijlow and Mark Flekken for the starting spot in goal for the Dutch.
Brian Plat | RB | 23 | Volendam
A product of Volendam’s academy, Brian Plat plied his trade in the fourth, third and second tiers of Dutch football, becoming a regular first-team member in 2020/21 and playing a key role in their promotion to the top-flight in 2021/22, following that up with 29 Eredivisie appearances last season. A 6’3” RB who’s defensively active and boasts amazing physicality, athleticism and speed, his physique and strength enables him to win duels with ease, whilst he is also a skilled player in possession. His last-man defending has seen him operate as a center back on occasion, and alongside Mbuyamba, he looks set to play a key role in defense under Matthias Kohler this season.
Marouan Azarkan | RW | 21 | Utrecht
Born in Rotterdam to Moroccan parents, Marouan Azarkan honed his trade at Feyenoord’s academy before spending a brief loan spell at NAC Breda. He made the move to Excelsior in 2021, playing a key role in their promotion and subsequent 15th-place finish with 17 goals and 20 assists in 66 appearances. After his loan expired, he joined Utrecht in June for €750,000, replacing Booth in the 41st minute of their season opener against PSV before starting on the right side of attack in their next three matches.
A skillful, technically gifted dribbler who boasts superb agility and finishing prowess, Azarkan is a creative playmaker who is constantly looking to make passes to attackers in the final third. After sellling Anastasios Douvikas to Celta de Vigo — the joint-top scorer in the league with 19 goals — for €12 million, Utrecht will be counting on their new recruit to get them out of the relegation zone following a dismal start that has seen them lose four out of four, concede 10 goals and score one.
Floris Smand | CB | 20 | Cambuur
Whilst he is no longer playing in the Eredivisie after suffering relegation last season, Floris Smand has caught the eye of his several clubs following an impressive 2022/23 campaign in Friesland. Having joined Cambuur in 2015, Smand made his professional debut on August 6, 2022 and racked up 23 league appearances, solidifying a starting spot in central defense after the World Cup break. He reads the game well and excels on the ball with a passing completion rate of 90% as well as 54.11 attempted passes per 90, and he’ll be looking to continue his development this season for Cambuur, who sit second in the Eerste Divisie.
Koki Saito | LW | 21 | Sparta Rotterdam
Yet another City Football Group player who made his way to the Netherlands, Koki Saito left Japan in January 2021, plying his trade in Belgium’s second tier for Lommel before being loaned out to Sparta Rotterdam. He racked up 7 goals and 5 assists in 26 appearances in the Eredivisie, prompting his loan to be extended for another year. A left winger with a quality first touch and stellar control, Saito’s two-way dribbling allows him to weave in and out of defenses.
Saito is skilled at cutting onto his right and firing a deadly shot, whilst he also boasts an impressive delivery on his left foot. He’s picked up where he left off, grabbing a brace in a 3-1 win at Heerenveen, and he looks set to play a key role in attack for the Castle Lords as they attempt to improve on last season’s sixth-place finish.
Michal Sadílek | CM | 24 | Twente
Born in Uherské Hradiště, Czech Republic, Michal Sadílek left for the Netherlands in 2015, plying his trade at PSV Eindhoven and making 40 appearances for the Dutch giants before returning to his homeland and spending the 2020/21 season at Slovan Liberec. Another loan spell followed, with the Czech international making 30 appearances as Twente finished fourth.
The deal was made permanent in April 2022, and after an injury-filled 2022/23 campaign, Sadílek will be looking to get back to his best this season, having played every single minute in their first three matches as Twente beat Almere City, PEC Zwolle, and Volendam. A defensively active performer who is aggressive in the tackle, Sadílek has slotted into various midfield roles and the left back position, and he’ll be looking to continue Twente’s immaculate start as they host Ajax before travelling to RKC Waalwijk.
Bobby Adekanye | RW | 24 | Go Ahead Eagles
It has been quite the globe-trotting career for Bobby Adekanye. Born in Nigeria, he moved to the Netherlands at the age of four, developing at Ajax before heading to Barcelona in 2011, only to leave in 2014 after being barred by FIFA from playing again for the Blaugrana side. A year at PSV followed, with Adekanye spending four years at Liverpool before making the move to Lazio in 2019.
With opportunities at the Biancocelesti hard to come by, Adekanye went out on loan to Cádiz, ADO Den Haag and Crotone before joining Go Ahead Eagles on a two-year contract. He enjoyed a promising debut campaign with 6 goals and 4 assists in 31 league appearances, capable of operating as a right winger, a center forward or as a second striker. A powerful, pacey forward with a great dribbling ability and a direct style, Adekanye is skilled at shooting from distance and weaving through opponents with his dribbling, and he’ll be looking to pick up some much-needed stability this season at De Adelaarshorst.
Peer Koopmeiners | DM | 23 | Almere City
The younger brother of Dutch international and Atalanta midfielder Teun Koopmeiners, Peer developed at AZ Alkmaar’s academy and was promoted to the first team in June 2021, being used sparingly before heading out on loan to Excelsior in January. He quickly locked down a starting spot as Excelsior narrowly avoided the drop, before being sent out on loan to newly promoted Almere City this summer.
Boasting impressive technical ability, superb athleticism, and a physically imposing presence, Peer is capable of playing as a defensive midfielder, a central midfielder or a center back just like his brother. He is a defensively active, deep-lying playmaker who is skilled at controlling the rhythym of matches and orchestrating the first phase of build-up, and it hasn’t taken long for him to become one of the first names on the team sheet for the Black Sheep, starting in each of their first four matches.
Youri Regeer | RB | 19 | Twente
Alongside Carel Eiting and Naci Ünüvar (loan), Youri Regeer is yet another Ajax academy product who has made the move to Twente this summer. After making three Eredivisie appearances in each of the last two seasons, Regeer joined the Tukkers for €900,000 and has quickly made an impact, making eight appearances across all competitions so far and slotting into the left back position as well as other midfield roles.
A natural right back who is capable of slotting into the center of the pitch, Regeer is a technically gifted player who is skilled at creating from deep, controlling the flow of possession and dribbling past opponents. He has the makings of a top-class inverted fullback, and he could be set to play a vital role for a Twente side that is looking to consolidate its position in the Eredivisie’s upper echelon.
Kacper Kozłowski | AM | 19 | Vitesse Arnhem
It has been a rollercoaster few years for Kacper Kozłowski. Born in Koszalin, Poland, Kozłowski was the victim of a car accident in January 2020 that left him with three broken vertebrae, but after six months on the sidelines, he recovered and enjoyed a stellar 2020/21 campaign for Pogoń Szczecin. In June 2021, he featured for Poland in a 1-1 draw against Spain, becoming the youngest player of any nationality to feature in a Euros match at 17 years and 246 days old, breaking the record that had been held by Jude Bellingham for a mere six days.
He joined Brighton in January 2022, immediately moving to their sister club Union Saint-Gilloise on loan, before enjoying an impressive loan spell at Vitesse. Confident on the ball with stellar technique and application, the attacking midfielder is a sensational dribbler who is capable of progressing the ball with carries and skilled at launching pinpoint deliveries into the box. Having renewed his loan for yet another season, he has picked up where he left off, starting in each of their three matches and grabbing an assist in a 3-1 defeat to PSV Eindhoven.
Can Bozdoğan | CM | 22 | Utrecht
Born in Cologne to Turkish parents, Can Bozdoğan developed at Cologne’s academy before heading to Schalke in 2019. He left Germany in 2021, spending a season out on loan at Beşiktaş, before heading out on loan to Utrecht. A solid all-round midfielder who excels at shooting from distance, he is an agile dribbler who is capable of wiggling his way out of danger. After grabbing 1 goal and 6 assists in 24 Eredivisie appearances, Utrecht made the move permanent for €1 million.
Another exciting pickup alongside ex Manchester United midfielder Zidane Iqbal, ex Real Sociedad defender Modibo Sagnan, and ex Feyenoord winger Marouan Azarkan, Bozdoğan has picked up where he left off, starting in each of their four matches and playing the entirety in all but one of them. Utrecht currently occupy the relegation zone with zero points, and they’ll be counting on Bozdoğan as they look to bounce back with trips to Heracles and NEC before closing out September with a visit from Almere City.
By: Ben Mattinson / @Ben_Mattinson_
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / BSR Agency / Getty Images